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February 2, 2012

Kitchen Clean Up Duty in Mom’s 1950s Time Capsule Condo

By Sara In AZ


So y’all, we need to do some serious cleaning in the kitchen this week. Does anyone want to come over and help me??? Smile

You can see we still have a disaster on our hands.

First off, Mike had to replace each and every water shut-off valve in the condo. You see, none of the shut-offs actually worked anymore. So, say we had a toilet about to overflow – well that meant it was going to overflow everywhere. ugh. This meant a lot of time with no water on at all inside of the condo. Not fun, because I was pretty much covered in paint while Mike was replacing the valves and I needed to use the water a lot. We made it through somehow though!  I’m glad there were only 5 shut-off valves to replace inside of the condo, but it still took time because Mike wanted to solder on new cooper fittings to make it easier to replace the shut-offs in the future.  Whew, I was glad when that was done, but I am pretty sure Mike was even happier!


Then we had to replace the wooden cabinet bottom inside the sink base cabinet. After years of leaky pipes the old wooden sink base was literally falling apart. It was in splinters and probably would have caved in very soon. We did not want to replace it with just another piece of wood, so we looked around Home Depot and saw they had these Melamine covered Particleboard sheets for sale. YAY! It would work perfectly AND would not rot out if there was any plumbing leaks.


So, here Mike is installing it………Go Mike!


Here he is carefully nailing the Melamine in, the paper is there so he does not scuff up the cabinet with the hammer.


I have to say Mom was quite thrilled with the new melamine base inside her sink cabinet!

Onto the cabinets………………………………..


Mom was really super worried about the original wooden cabinets inside of the condo. She kept on insisting that there was probably nothing at all that could be done with them, and they would always look horrible until they were completely refinished (you can kind of see the dirt around all of the knobs in the above pic, taken right after Mom bought the condo).

Y’all know me and it seems I am always refinishing something, but there was NO WAY in HE double hockey-sticks I was going to even touch these cabinets with a sander.

Here are some pictures of the grime-laden cabinets. eeks!!!





I knew these cabinets had to be covered with years of grime because this place was a rental for the past 53 years. I thought to myself, “What is the best grime cleaner I know?” Why Formula 409, of course! See, the bottle even says it too  “Cuts through tough grease AND grime”!

I hereby abolish every piece of grime from this condo!


So I got myself a bottle of Formula 409 and went to town! I cleaned the outside of the cabinets, I cleaned the inside of the cabinets, I cleaned my heart out.

I knew the wooden cabinets would need some conditioning after the hard core cleaning, so I got my hands on some Howard Feed-N-Wax and went to town.


I have to say the Feed-N-Wax works better than I could have ever expected! Yay Feed-N-Wax!!!

Here is a side by side comparison of clean doors, the left has Feed-N-Wax and the right side does not. Amaze-balls huh!


Here is another view of the side by side comparison.


It’s just crazy how different it looks isn’t it? It almost looks new!


Sooooooo, I went over every door with the Feed-N-Wax and here are some after shots!


Its almost crazy how nice the cabinets look now!






When Mom walked in and saw the cabinets all cleaned up and shining pretty she was stunned! Formula 409 and Feed-N-Wax saved the day! YAY!

It’s going to be a BIG week next week y’all, the new flooring gets installed! Come back next Thursday to see what kind of flooring Mom went with. Hmmmmmmm, what could it be? Any guesses? Smile

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33 Responses to Kitchen Clean Up Duty in Mom’s 1950s Time Capsule Condo

  1. Betty Crafter Reply

    February 2, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Um…WOW!!! That looks so amazing! I’m totally going to try that on my cabinets! What did you use with the 409? Just a regular rag, or something with some grit? So impressed Sara! As for the floors, I think some VCT is going to make an appearance somewhere 🙂

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      February 2, 2012 at 2:52 pm

      Well thanks Betty, I appreciate that! Mom’s cabinets don’t really have that clear/poly coat on them, so maybe that is why the wax was able to penetrate and make them really shine. I just used tons of white paper towels for cleaning and for applying the wax. I’ll bet you could use something with a bit of grit though too, esp. if the cabs really needed a going over.

      And you are a very smart girl Betty with your guess about the VCT! You would not happen to know what the lottery numbers were going to be would you??? 🙂

  2. Eartha Kitsch Reply

    February 2, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Wow, mama! Those cabinets! They’re so pretty. I’m glad that you could clean them up and nothing drastic had to be done. Go Sara! Go Formula 409!

    And go Mike! I remember the drama of that plumbing….whoowhee….

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      February 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      Oh gosh, thanks so much Eartha! I just could not bear the thought of pulling out the sander on these cabinets, it just would have been to painful. eeks!

      Oh boy, this was just the start with the whole valve change out. We have not even gotten to the whole drama involving the shower valves yet. Lord have mercy, I am SO glad that is behind us!!!

  3. Charlotte Reply

    February 2, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    I gasped when I saw how nice the cabinets looked after the waxing. Well done, Sara!

    I sympathize about the water shut-offs. I’m having the same issue (thankfully with just one) in my 1925 condo. My plumber will have to shut off water to the entire building to do a small repair on my tub because that shut-off doesn’t work. Ugh!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      February 2, 2012 at 3:04 pm

      Thank you so much Charlotte! They really did turn out even better than I thought they would. YAY!

      I can completely feel your pain with the whole valve change out situation. We had to change the main water shut off valve leading into Mom’s condo too; a valve outside where the water comes in from the main city water line. Unfortunately, we could not do that valve change out ourselves because it involved these crazy tools that we do not have and sadly the water to ALL the other condos in the complex had to be shut off when the valve was being changed out. I felt SO horrible, but it had to be done. I’m SO glad that is behind us now!!!!

  4. Andrea Reply

    February 2, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Wow, I am AMAZED, Sara! I would have assumed that you would have had to refinish those for sure – I am going to have to try this on my cabinets!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      February 2, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      Thank you so much Andrea!!! I was terrified I would have to do something much more involved to make the cabs looks better, I’m SO happy it turned out so well! Let me know if it works out for you on your cabinets!

  5. racergirl1313 Reply

    February 2, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    They look amazing! Good job!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      February 2, 2012 at 3:10 pm

      Thank you very much, I really appreciate that racergirl!

  6. Annie B. Reply

    February 2, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Sara! Wow! You have proved that the impossible can be accomplished (providing you have an adequate supply of Formula 409). Those cabinets are glowing. Love ’em.

    Mom’s flooring? Hmmm….terrazzo patterned sheet vinyl or tiles?

    GREAT job.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      February 2, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      Ha! I know Annie, the wonders of Formula 409 never cease to amaze me! Thanks so much though!

      Ooohhhh, close on the floor – but not quite. Can you stand to wait until next week? 🙂

      • Annie B. Reply

        February 3, 2012 at 9:52 am

        Just barely!!!

  7. Vickie Reply

    February 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Wowza! This is going to be a real showplace when you’re done! Sending you both huge pat’s on the back for your skills & energy. The cabinets look stunning. Isn’t the Feed & Wax just THE best EVER! I use it on all old wood pieces I purchase and it’s like a miracle happens. Fantastic job Sarah ~ kudos to you & that wonderful hubby of yours. Can’t wait to see the next MONUMENTAL change!


    • Sara In AZ Reply

      February 3, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      Awwwww, thanks Vickie that is so kind of you to say! I don’t know what kind of magic dust they put in Feed-N-Wax, but it sure is a miracle worker! And yeah, none of this would really even be possible without the selfless determination of my husband! Stay tuned for the big flooring reveal next week!

  8. DrJulieAnn aka The Modern Retro Woman Reply

    February 4, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Basically what everyone else has said. What a difference a “little” 409 and wood conditioner makes!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      February 4, 2012 at 7:40 pm

      It’s just crazy isn’t it? You’d never guess in a million years!

  9. Heather B Reply

    February 10, 2012 at 9:11 am

    I just wanted to let you know we have the same cabinets in out house and I was amazed at what the Feed-N-wax did in these pictures so I went and bought some. I’m still in the middle of feeding and waxing but out cabinets look great, thanks so much!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      February 10, 2012 at 11:55 am

      OMG!!! Really!?! I am SO happy to hear that Heather. I tell you, there is pure magic inside that bottle of Feed-N-Wax! 🙂 You should take some before and afters, if you have the time, and send them on in. Thanks so much for letting me know!

      • Heather B Reply

        February 10, 2012 at 6:12 pm

        I will TRY. I am a horrible photographer. I plan on doing the upper cabinets tonight so I will see what I can do. I was so thrilled to see the same cabinets in your mom’s kitchen as I have, they aren’t very common around here (Metro Detroit) anymore because everyone is “upgrading”.

        • Sara In AZ Reply

          February 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm

          Whatever pics you can get Heather work well for me, don’t worry about your photographic skills! I would just love to see it. That is SO cool that you have the same cabs as my Mom, aren’t they great. And bless you for keeping your home original and NOT upgrading!!! 🙂

  10. Chelsea Reply

    February 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks so much Sara for sharing your success with Feed-N-Wax, I too bought a bottle after reading this and it has done wonders with my cabinets! I had the same problem after cleaning my cabinets when I moved in to my new house & I am amazed at how the Feed-N-Wax made them not only shiny but also made all the blemishes disappear, amazing!!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      February 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm

      Awesome Chelsea!!! I am SO happy it worked as well for you as it did for me. That Feed-N-Wax is like the best thing out there, I tell you! 🙂 Thanks so much for letting me know!

  11. Macia Fowler Reply

    November 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Where do you buy the Feed-N-Wax?

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      November 10, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Macia! I bought mine at our local Ace store….I know woodworking stores also sell the full line – places like ‘Woodcraft’…and you can also order it online. Hope that helps you out!

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  13. Suzanne Reply

    May 21, 2015 at 7:55 am

    What a make over!!! You did a great job! Waxing totally changed the look of the kitchen cabinets! Big up, Formula 409!

  14. kate Reply

    February 19, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Dawn is also an option that isn’t so harsh. I just moved into a 1960s house with the same cabinets – same hardware and same grimy problem. The 409 bleached in places so I switched to Dawn. If the finish was still intact, Dawn, applied 2-3 times with a scrubby sponge followed by the Howards was totally effective. Unfortunately, several drawers and doors were worn down to wood. This continues to be a problem. I used very fine sandpaper and repeated the process, adding a swipe of neutral stain. Days later, a wipe on poly urethane. The finish is still really rough.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      February 21, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Kate – sorry to hear my process did not quite work out for you. Sounds like your finish was pretty worn down and, like you said, maybe that was part of the problem. Were I in your situation I would have done exactly the same thing – switched to a mild detergent and then apply Howard’s….I would have also done the stain a poly to the really worn down areas just like you did.

      Honestly, when you applying stain and poly to anything it is really hard to get a super fine smooth ‘factory like’ finish….I’ve been refinishing Heywood Wakefield for years now and it has taken me a very long time to figure out how to get a really nice smooth finish to the end product. One thing you could try on your rough finish is a polishing sandpaper. I know it might seem counter productive to actually sand after you have finished your stain and poly, but there are very high grit sandpapers available (2000 grit or higher for example) that will actually give you either a glossy or matte finish to your final refinishing project and get rid of the ‘roughness’ as well. Hopefully something like this can work out for you – let me know!

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  16. Jamie Patterson Reply

    July 7, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Thanks for the fantastic tips! 3 months ago, I bought a house built in 1901. The house was last renovated in the early 50s and has those same cabinets, 24 of them, plus built in appliances, A LOT of wood to clean!! Lol. After septic issues, basement leaks, sealing of lead paint & much, much cleaning (it had also been a rental), I tackled the cabinet yesterday with Murphy’s Oil Soap. I think it was a mistake, either it took off the finish, or the years of dirt & grime looked better. Lol. I’ll be trying your method for the tons of remaining wood.

    Thanks ,
    Jamie P.

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      July 7, 2017 at 8:09 pm

      Good Luck Jamie! Don’t know if you read through the comments or not, but one lady commented that the 409 was too harsh and she just used Dawn as a cleaner (see Kate’s comment just above). At any rate I do highly recommend the Feed and Wax/Howard’s products. If your finish is worn off you might consider using Restore-A-Finish by Howard’s…..I used it all of the Howard’s products on my front door and it came out just great…here is a link


      Let me know how it goes for you!

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